Here is a post I wrote but didn’t get chance to share from May when I went to Budapest –
I’m just heading home after a very enjoyable few days in Budapest. It was not quite my normal style of cramming in 5 models a day morning til night but I still managed 8 photoshoots and got to see a little bit of the city too!
If you follow me on Instagram you might have noticed I’m currently training for an endurance triathlon called an ‘Ironman’. I was very aware that I couldn’t just stop training when I got to Budapest as it would put me back a few weeks in terms of progress. I had hoped to run each day but annoyingly I’ve picked up the standard Achilles’ tendon issues due to over training. My plan was therefore to use the Budapest Bubi bikes to keep my legs moving but just before going to use one I read on Trip Advisor that tourists have ran up huge bills by taking a bike out for 24hrs. They are more designed for locals to use and drop within 30mins. Instead I found Bikebase Budapest and hired from them a retro single speed bike to cruise round the city on. I was really sad to give it back after 24hrs! On the last day I then found myself will a spare hour before the first model arrived so I ran to the shop, literally, hired another bike from them and went and did a quick 20km loop along the Danube river before dropping it back and running back to the apartment just in time for the first model! I loved every minute cycling in the sunshine and the Budapest cycle paths are much better than most of the cities I’ve cycled in in the UK.
I found some of my go to model friends were out of town during my stay but luckily I headhunted a few new girls to join me for photoshoots instead. I get more and more picky with the models I work with year on year so that makes the task 10x more difficult! If I wouldn’t include a model in my portfolio then I don’t ask to work with them. I met 5 models I’d worked with on previous trips to Budapest and then 3 new girls. The models I knew from previous visits really stepped it up a level and on the whole produced some of our best images together to date I think. Picking new models based on Instagram photos can be risky as most models are now pretty good with the various editing apps to the extent that that you would not recognise them in real life! Luckily for me though, the unedited photos I was seeing on my Leica M240 LCD with these girls far exceeded any expectations I may have had from Instagram. Iphone selfies with lots of filters applied can be nice I’m sure but they don’t compare to a proper camera. From the models positive responses it seemed it was not just my opinion!
Some of the photos I was capturing on this trip were instant favourites but I was consciously working differently to how I have been taking pictures recently.
Back to basics
In my earlier model photography I relied heavily on using available light to illuminate models. That was especially true when using my Leica M2 and Leica M3 as I can’t use my flash triggers on them (as easily) but also for all the much earlier work with cameras like the ARAX-CM, Yashica MG-1, Pentacon Six TL, Voigtlander Bessa R3A and others. More recently I have favoured cameras like the Hasselblad 500CM/ 501C, Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, Leica M6 Classic, Leica M4P, Mamiya 6, Hasselblad XPan all which let me use wireless off camera flash easily. Likewise for the digital photos I nearly always use flash when shooting in the UK and often when overseas also to create light when I want and where I want. (There will always be exceptions such as Budapest last autumn when I was using the Leica M2 for some available light work).
I was digging through my old photos on Flickr and thought to myself, I never take photos like that anymore yet I quite like them. Most of my model photography was with available light and I used all my lenses at their widest aperture for dreamy shallow depth of field portraits. I think as I started to use more and more flash I started to stop the lenses down and I often shot with a model against a wall so I didn’t need a shallow DOF. Another reason for stopping lenses down on the Leica M240 over the last 6-9 months is I noticed the rangefinder needs recalibrating again but I’ve not had 6-8 weeks free to send it away to Leica Germany. As such I just use the M240 stopped down a little (f4 on a 35mm lens).
I think partly due using lenses stopped down lens I have not been as excited to take photos with the Leica M240 as I used to. I packed the ‘M’ to bring to Budapest as it was the only camera that gives high quality images and high resolution for the models that packs small in my bag and can work well in low light if needed. I did consider the Leica M8 but some experienced models almost expect the super polished modern look from a CMOS sensor so don’t always appreciate the 10MP more filmic style. I appreciate both.
Rangefinder or LiveView
I was partly through the first photoshoot in Budapest shooting at around f4 on a 35mm lens and I suddenly had a light bulb moment. I could focus the image with the LCD in LiveView mode and then shoot my lenses wide open. That was that and I didn’t look back once! I shot all photos after that wide open using LiveView to critically focus and I got quite quick at it by the end. I also shot almost the entire trip with available light at perhaps ISO 800 max. (There was one exception where due to the photo style the model wanted we used flash and stopped down!).
Most of the photos I took will therefore look a bit different (hopefully!) compared to my photos over the last 6-12+ months or so I think. It was so nice to use the lenses wide open again and for what they were designed for. The star of the trip was without doubt the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH which was on the M240 camera most of the time. I will definitely get the M240 recalibrated at my earliest convenience. One point to note is although LiveView is a good plan B option, I believe the rangefinder focusing method is still king. It is faster and the camera is much more stable resting the camera against the forehead so to me is better for critical focusing and allows the use of slower shutter speeds.
- Leica M240 digital camera body
- Leica M3 film camera (recalibrated)
- Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens
- Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 classic lens
- Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens
- Nikon FM SLR film camera
- Voigtlander 40mm f2 SL II pancake lens
- Lumix LX100 digital compact (backup)
I have been using mostly Kodak Double-X 5222 black and white film over the last six months and Kodak Motion Picture colour film stocks (As I bulk load them). I therefore decided to take different films for a change and went back to film I used to use a lot in my early film photography. I took Kodak T-Max 100 and Kodak T-Max 400 and a roll of Kentmere 100 to use up. For colour film I took Fujicolor C200 as I like the fine grain and some Kodak Porta 400.
As usual a big thank you to all the models I worked with in Budapest. It is the models that make the trip. In no order thanks to Franciska, Cynthia, Nikoletta, Daniella, Flora, Sara, Lili and Tamara. You may recognise a few familiar faces! 🙂
Here are a few photos I have processed since getting home but as always there will be more to come to my Flickr feed and Instagram account (@MrLeicaCom) in the coming days/ weeks.
…luckily as it has taken me so long to post it here are quite a few photos from Budapest!
Sadly both rolls of Kodak T-Max 100 film I’d shot didn’t develop properly (massively under exposed) hence most of the film photos shared are from the same shoot.
I have yet to develop the colour film shot in the Nikon FM SLR as most of my time has been going into Ironman triathlon training, hence this late post. Once developed I will be sure to share the results! 🙂